MOGADISHU (Reuters) - The Somali militant Islamist group al Shabaab attacked a Mogadishu hotel on Sunday, driving a car packed with explosives through the hotel gate and killing at least 13 people, a first responder and the rebel group said.
A Reuters witness said blood and pieces of flesh were spattered around the site of the blast targeting the Jazeera hotel. Nearby was the wreckage of four cars.
“We have carried 13 dead people and 21 others who were injured, some seriously,” an ambulance worker Abdikadir Abdirahman told Reuters.
A police officer, Major Nur Osoble, told Reuters a suicide car bomb had rammed the gates of the hotel, damaging the facade.
Al Shabaab, which said it was behind the blast, frequently stages bomb and gun attacks in the capital in its bid to topple Somalia’s Western-backed government. The nation is trying to rebuild after two decades of conflict and chaos.
“It is a response to attacks and helicopter bombing against al Shabaab by AMISOM and the Somali government,” Sheikh Abdiasis Abu Musab, al Shabaab’s military operations spokesman, told Reuters.
AMISOM, the African Union’s force in Somalia, has been battling the Islamist rebels with the Somali army. Al Shabaab has been pushed into increasingly smaller pockets of territory by a military offensive this year.
The popular Jazeera hotel has been targeted on previous occasions. The blast on Sunday sent a plume of smoke rising above the coastal capital. Sporadic gunfire was heard shortly after the attack.
Al Shabaab, which wants to impose its strict interpretation of Islam on Somalia, killed a lawmaker, his bodyguard and an official from the prime minister’s office on two attacks on Saturday.
Writing by Edmund Blair and Edith Honan; Editing by Tom Heneghan